Can I interview for a job during a pandemic? (Trevina Broussard; Edna Rice Executive Recruiters, Inc.)

Interviewing (2)

The number of companies around the globe asking their employees to work from home increases each day with the number of infections tied to the ongoing coronavirus COVID 19 pandemic. As a result, recruiters and managers are being forced to move their hiring processes online.

The most immediate change will likely be — as we’re already seeing — companies switching in-person interviews to video. While the substance of those interviews is ultimately the same, video interviews differ from in-person meetings. 

Here are some best practices for video interviews and to hear what job seekers may face over the next few weeks.

What you should expect

Companies are always proud when they are able to quickly fill positions. They may be less concerned about that measure during the pandemic, though. In other words, companies may take longer to make you an offer, especially for senior-level positions.

It would be shocking to me if someone made an offer to a senior candidate without meeting the person, but I can see — in this situation — getting the person through several rounds of interviews until they can meet the person.

Another issue is that it’s likely more difficult to get all the key stakeholders to weigh in on a job candidate to make a decision. If everyone is going to be out of the office, working remotely and not meeting regularly, it may be harder to get people on the same page.

While no one wants to take part in prolonged hiring processes, you need to remember that we’re currently dealing with unprecedented circumstances. If you want to land a job, you’ll need to continues engaging with these processes — no matter how long it takes — to be considered for roles.

Do your research

Fortunately, the first step in preparing for video interviews is not unlike what you did before the pandemic began. The key is to do as much work and research ahead of an interview as possible.

During your research, it’s important to find potential topics of conversation with interviewer or interviewers. Video interviews tend to contain less small talk and be shorter than in-person meetings. So, it even more important that you make an effort to form a bond with the person on the other side of the screen. Look for things to talk about on the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile, for example. Or, you can mention something they said on a podcast or elsewhere.

Prepare your space and practice

Unlike in-person interviews, those done by video often open a window into your personal life. As humans, we make decisions about what people’s spaces or homes look like. Avoid allowing recruiters or hiring managers see a messy environment filled with mountains of papers or crooked picture frames.

Instead, opt for a neutral background with good lighting. Also, make sure the camera is at eye level to avoid any unflattering angles.

Also, a benefit to video interviews is that you can have notes in front of you or around your workspace. The interviewer doesn’t have to know that. Also, if you have dual monitors, you can have one for the interview and one for your notes.

For those of you who don’t have access to a webcam or a laptop with a built-in camera; local libraries can often be a one-stop-shop for job seekers. They may even have a quiet space for you to sit with a laptop for the interview. Alternatively, you can ask local co-working spaces if they have a room and equipment to rent.

Lastly, you’ll want to practice talking to the camera, which is more complicated than it seems. A trick, I often suggest is to put a pair of googly eyes right near the camera lens to encourage you to look at the camera during the interview — not down, off to the side or elsewhere. You want to make sure you have good eye contact.

During the interview

While many of the formal job interview questions will be the same whether in-person or over video, you should ask for specific information about the company’s hiring timeline. Also, you should ask if the position will be remote until the pandemic is over and how the onboarding process will proceed if the company continues to work remotely for a month or two.

It’s also important during a video interview to tell the recruiter or hiring manager how interested you are in the opportunity. You should thank the person for their time, tell them how impressed you are with the team and say how honored you are to be considered for the position.

Leave no doubt in the hiring manager’s mind that you want to be there.

Additionally, you should expect the unexpected during these next few weeks while people are working from home. While everyone will want to continue on with their professional tasks, life can sometimes get in the way when children, pets or even the doorbell intrude on a video interview. The best thing you can do is show grace and hope they’ll return the favor.